On Thursday, while the City Council votes to override Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act (better known as the Living Wage Bill), dozens of New Yorkers will gather in front of City Hall to show their support for the Council’s action.
“We do have the votes to override the mayor’s veto, but it is pretty sad that we even have to do this,” said Kimberly Ortiz, a former retail worker who two years ago became an organizer for something called the Retail Action Project.
“This was already voted on and overwhelmingly approved but that means nothing to Bloomberg,” she added. “This is a man who pretty much bought his third term; for him it is his way or the highway.”
Dubbed “the Mayor of Inequality,” by Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Bloomberg is so intent in subverting the people’s will that he has promised to challenge the Council’s override in court.
“With this veto, Mayor Bloomberg has cemented his legacy as the mayor of the rich, by the rich and for the rich,” said Rev. Raymond Rivera, director of the Latino Pastoral Action Center.
At this point the bill doesn’t benefit a great number of working New Yorkers. Actually the Living Wage bill contemplates raising the wages of just a few workers — the ones who labor at companies that receive $1 million or more in city subsidies — to $11.50 an hour, or $10 an hour for those with benefits, instead of the current state-mandated minimum wage of $7.25.
This being the case, one has to wonder why the Mayor bothered to veto the bill and threaten to fight the override in court.
“Right now this will affect a few hundred workers, but it is important because it is setting a standard for the future,” Ortiz said.
A standard by which workers would be compensated a little more fairly, something not to the liking of many people in the business community.
This is what Bloomberg has in mind when he talks about the Living Wage bill as a jobs killer. He has gone as far as comparing the bill to communism.
“While this bill could potentially result in higher wages for some workers, these increases would come at the cost of job creation,” the mayor said in a message when he vetoed the bill.
But as Ortiz said, “workers don’t need more poverty-wages jobs. The last thing we need is more impoverished people.”
The Living Wage NYC Coalition has scheduled a press conference for 11 am tomorrow at City Hall. They expect that a diverse group of workers, elected officials, union members, clergy, community and religious leaders will be present.
Yet Thursday’s actions will be mostly symbolic, Ortiz said.
“The mayor will do what he will do,” she said. “But [the actions] will call attention to the fact that Bloomberg doesn’t care if something was approved democratically.”
The mayor’s adamant opposition to a bill supported by the majority of New Yorkers and overwhelmingly approved by the City Council has bought him little sympathy.
“Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy is one of disrespect: extending his term against the will of the people and now labeling honest working class people as Communist for wanting to earn a decent living wage so they can take care of their families,” said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, president, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. “The Living Wage NYC Coalition will remain in this fight until all workers are treated fairly and paid justly.”